Stocks Open Higher as Jobless Claims Drop

Stocks opened slightly higher Thursday after a report showed jobless claims fell last week.

Initial jobless claims fell by 4,000last week, the third straight week of decline. Continuing claims fell to 6.735 million. It was the first time that continuing claims declined since early January, following 17 straight weeks of record highs.

Meanwhile, nonfarm productivity rose 1.6 percent in the first quarter, much higher than the initial estimate of 0.8 percent and the 0.6 percent drop in the fourth quarter.

GM Europe's president said he hopes that the automaker's German unit Opel will make a profit before 2013, a target set by its prospective buyer.

Meanwhile, Chrysler's dealer controversy should come to a head this morning, with a bankruptcy judge expected to rule on whether the automaker can go ahead with the planned shutdown of hundreds of dealerships as it proceeds through bankruptcy.

Shares of financials were mostly higher, including Citigroup and Bank of America after the Bank of England and the European Central Bank both interest rates steady, as expected.

Futures had gotten off to a rocky start as the May sales reports trickling out from the nation's largest retailers still showed consumers reluctant to spend, with 76 percent of retailers missing estimates.

For the first time, Wal-Mart will not release a monthly report, having said last month that henceforth, figures would only be issued quarterly.

What the discount giant did announce this morning was plans to hire 22,000 more employees at its namesake store.

Costco, Target and Hot Topic all reported drops more than analysts expected, while The Buckle and off-price chain TJX exceeded expectations.

In energy, oil prices were staging a rebound from Wednesday's drop, gaining about $1 to more than $67 a barrel.

But shares of Valero fell after the company repriced its public offering of 40 million shares to $18, a slight discount to Wednesday's close but sharply below the original estimate. Also, BMO cut its rating of Valero to underperform from market perform as the company announced earlier this week it would be suspending its expansion of the Valero Port Arthur Refinery.

- Peter Schacknow, senior producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk, contributed to this report.

Still to Come:

THURSDAY: NY Fed Pres. Dudley speaks; Chain-store sales
FRIDAY: May jobs report; consumer credit

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